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President’s Spring 2006 Report to the Board of Regents

April, 2006

            “…it is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more other people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world – using computers, e-mail, networks, teleconferencing, and dynamic new software.”

            Thomas L. Friedman (2005) The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. (p. 8)

In his best-selling book, Friedman challenges us to reflect on a world made horizontal through technology.  We certainly experience technology as a change agent within higher education.  The academic enterprise is seamless as our campuses function in a 24-7 world with few boundaries, local or global.

The 24 hour campus is illustrated through a top ten ‘countdown’ in the March 2006 issue of Campus Technology.  The first item on the list reports the fact that students do not stop being students at 5 p.m.  You can see this at Pacific on the Stockton campus.  During February approximately 28% of the total web access to the Pacific library occurred between 10:00 p.m. - 8:00 a.m. and 5,647 individuals accessed our library web site between 3:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.

In addition, the 24 hour campus countdown notes that academics, businesses and government agencies have an expectation of ‘anytime, anywhere, access” through 24 hour exposure on the web.

Where is Pacific in this horizontal seamless world?  When we started our current planning process last January the Board was clear that the mission remains intact.  Our mission of providing a superior student centered education, integrating liberal arts and professional education, and preparing practice ready citizen leaders is significantly influenced by our ability to function in the ‘flattened world’ described by Friedman. A Pacific education is defined by the distinctive relationship between student and faculty member.   So how do we balance our mission and distinctiveness within challenging information technology (IT) requirements?

We decided to address these complex questions and challenges within our Board- directed planning process.  As a part of the University Planning process for 2008-15, we assembled a National Panel on technology to address the following issues:

  1. Provide a comparative perspective on current University IT priorities and planning for the next 3-5 years.
  2. Evaluate University IT priorities in relation to achieving parity with the “top third” of mid-sized, non research, comprehensive universities, and current standing of the University on IT deployment and services in relation to other universities.
  3. Evaluate the appropriateness of IT funding, the allocation of IT resources, and IT governance.
  4. Evaluate the Office of Information Technology’s IT planning and its relation so the University planning; how can University planning set a clearer institutional goal or pathway for IT planning?
  5. How can Pacific use IT to increase its revenue and/or national standings?

We were privileged to have three outstanding leaders who brought different perspectives to the table.  Dr. Jay Morley, President of the National Association for College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), is former Chief Financial Officer at Cornell University.  Casey Green currently heads the National Campus Computing Project at the Claremont Graduate School; an office that produces the most reliable date on technology in higher education today.  The third panelist is Dr. Bill Bertrand, former Chief Information Officer at Tulane University and currently Director of Tulane’s Payson Center for International Development, a known innovator in the use of technology in developing nations.

How did the panel view Pacific?  They observed that Pacific is challenged to maintain reasonable currency in its use of technology for students, faculty, and staff.  They did not see any misjudgments in the use of technology resources, but rather focused on the realities of changing student expectations and dynamic innovations in technology.  They observed that every university struggles over the resource demands for technology.  The struggle is in balancing the range of resource demands within our complex learning environment inclusive of students, faculty, staff, and our external constituencies.

The panel urges us to consider external funding to achieve University technology goals and to accept the fact that we will need a larger operations budget for technology expenses.  They advise us that this is inevitable.  You will see this reflected in our proposal to increase the technology budget in the 2007.

Perhaps most important, the panel pushes us to think beyond the strategic objectives we identified.    They suggest we consider new terminology within a redefined strategic framework that will impact academic excellence while improving administrative efficiency.  Pacific has the potential to become a leader in technology driven “knowledge management”.  This will require a new strategy and focused IT investments that more closely link our vision for information technology to our institutional mission and priorities.

For example, the priority to fund technology infrastructure within Advancement on all three campus will enhance Pacific’s comprehensive fund-raising efforts and increase contact with alumni from each campus.  Recent technology enhancements in the Admissions area include a portal for our newly admitted students and their families that provides anytime access to enroll at Pacific and new resources to enhance web communication with these prospective students.

The panel poses a series of questions that they believe will help guide our future decisions and resource allocations.

  • How do technology investments help advance the mission of the University?
  • How do choices about technology resources and services support teaching, promote student learning, advance scholarships, and support research?
  • How do investments in technology contribute to administrative excellence – to enhanced administrative services for our clientele, more effective administrative and decision making?
  • How can information technology at the University of the Pacific foster and improve the University’s institutional relationships with and among students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and other previously unaffiliated individuals, organizations, and corporations?

The panel’s report challenges us, as University leadership, to ‘champion’ this planning process that would not only provide our framework, but define Pacific as leader in technology driven knowledge management. This will require a new strategy and focused IT investments that link our vision for information technology more directly to our institutional mission and priorities.

We live and work in a ‘flattened’ 24-7 environment.  Friedman ends his book with a story that is close to our work and our personal experience.  He describes dropping his oldest daughter off at college and the dichotomy of his feelings at that moment.

“…something bothered me…I felt like I could still promise my daughter her bedroom back, but I couldn’t promise her the world – not in the carefree way I could explore it when I was her age.  That really bothered me.  Still does” (p. 468).

This experience reminds us, as does the panel, that the technology issues that confront all campuses today have happened in a relatively short time – just two decades.  We have the opportunity for leadership in this planning process.  We can engage the creative imagination Friedman challenges us to embrace in developing a knowledge management strategy, framework, and vision that the University of Pacific so very much deserves.